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GMO labeling backers notch a win; Senate votes down bill limiting states’ rights

Presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton don’t agree on the use of GMOs in food production. On Wednesday, the Senate voted down a bill aimed at limiting states’ rights to require GMO labeling. Video courtesy SpreadtheBern/Youtube
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted down an amendment preempting individual states from requiring labeling and disclosure of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

The amendment sponsored and introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) was aimed at limiting the power of states to enact consumer awareness legislation at the local level in favor of federal guidelines yet to be established.

 Speaking on the Senate Floor, Roberts invoked apocalyptic results for the food supply chain and service industries.

“The difficult issue for us to address is what to do about the patchwork of biotechnology labeling laws that will soon wreak havoc on the flow of interstate commerce, agriculture, and food products in every supermarket and every grocery store up and down Main Street of every community in America.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Roberts
muddied the lines between the public’s “right to know” through GMO labeling and disclosure; and the potential perception that GMO products were unsafe.

Calling on his colleagues to strike down state-by-state initiatives, Roberts continued his fire and brimstone approach.

“Unfortunately, the impact of these decisions will be felt all across the country. Those decisions impact the farmers in the fields who would be pressured to grow less efficient crops so manufacturers could avoid these demonizing labels,” he said.”

The shackling of GMO labeling to an image of failed farms and inadequate agriculture supplies was coupled with predictions of families burdened with increased and excessive grocery bills.

The Senate failed to invoke cloture on the bill with a vote of 48-49. Cloture, or the rule to propel expedient action requires three-fifths of the entire Senate membership (60 of 100) voting in the affirmative. If invoked, the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours of debate.

Roberts repeatedly told his colleagues that biotechnology in food production is safe and his approach was to create a more unified or federally enacted solution.

Don’t say GMO

Avoiding the populist term “GMO” or mention of genetically modified consumable foods, the senator from Kansas preferred the term biotechnology. Using the technical name for the known growth industry, Roberts joined former Secretary of State and presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton in steering clear of the unambiguous and controversial “genetic modification” terminology.

Clinton, in 2014, addressed the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and GMO trade association as a paid keynote speaker. In a live onstage interview with Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO, Clinton warned that industry officials should move towards a gentler term other than the widely used GMO.

“Genetically modified sounds ‘Frankensteinish; drought resistant sounds really like something you want.” – Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate

Candidates polarized on GMOs

Clinton and rival for the Presidency, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) are at odds on GMO industry powers and labeling.

Clinton maintains close ties to the agribusiness giant Monsanto. Her decades long connections date back to her roots at Arkansas’ Rose Law Firm who represented Monsanto.

Continuing to align closely with the GMO industry, Clinton’s ties to Monsanto extend to the Clinton Global Initiative, an arm of the Clinton Foundation.

Monsanto, as reported by the Washington Times has donated big money to the foundation and Hugh Grant, Monsanto’s Chairman and CEO was a guest speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative conference.

The Clinton presidential campaign is also not immune to Monsanto’s reach. According toOpensecrets.org, Center for Responsible Politics. campaign advisor, long-time ally, and Monsanto lobbyist, Jerry Crawford, worked for the GMO company as late as 2015.

Sanders supports the states’ right to act and enact legislation. Upon hearing of the successful defeat of Robert’s amendment, he released a statement.

“I am pleased that Congress stood up to the demands of Monsanto and other multi-national food industry corporations and rejected this outrageous bill. Today’s vote was a victory for the American people over corporate interests.” – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)

Sanders’ home state of Vermont was the first in the country to pass GMO labeling legislation at the local level. The legislation supported the consumer’s right to know.

Sanders in May 2013 introduced legislation at the federal level intended to “permit States to require that any food, beverage, or other edible product offered for sale have a label on indicating that the food, beverage, or other edible product contains a genetically engineered ingredient.”

The legislation, S. AMDT 965, Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 didn’t pass.

The Roberts amendment sought to block existent stateside legislation from moving forward with labeling, and prevent additional states from enacting their own laws.

“Sen. Roberts’ legislation violates the will of the people of Vermont and the United States who overwhelmingly believe that genetically modified food should be labeled. Republicans like to talk about states’ rights, but now they are attempting to preempt the laws of Vermont and other states that seek to label GMOs,” Sanders said.

Following the failed cloture, Roberts vowed to continue the move against state mandates.

“For more than a year, I have called on my colleagues across the aisle to come to the negotiating table to address the problems facing the nation’s marketplace should states continue to mandate confusing and differing biotechnology labeling standards,” Roberts said.

Roberts specifically highlighted Vermont citizens in his floor speech indicating that families in Sanders’ home state would see higher prices at the supermarket table. The Vermont legislation, representative of those families, passed overwhelmingly in a 114-30 vote.

“All over this country, people are becoming more conscious about the food they eat and the food they serve their kids. When parents go to the store and purchase food for their children, they have a right to know what they are feeding them. GMO labeling exists in 64 other countries. There is no reason it can’t exist here,” Sanders said.

This article originally appeared on Examiner.com on March 18, 2016.

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